It’s time to level the party playing field…
For four long years the Power & Light District downtown has held a huge advantage in festival licensing over other Westport and other Kansas City entertainment districts. All while costing Kansas City taxpayers millions of dollars in subsidies with deficets projected as high as $15 million a year.
Unfamiliar with festival licensing?
It’s the practice of allowing patrons to carry drinks outside of bars and restaurants onto streets and sidewalks. Kinda like Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
It’s a competitive advantage the Power & Light District has had for far too long, says Westporter Bill Nigro.
"Just in sales tax alone this past year, Westport has given the city over $3 million," Nigro says. "And by the way, the sales tax for the Power & Light District goes to pay off the loans that were used to build the whole thing. So the city doesn’t get to keep that money."
To that end, Westport is asking for the city to allow it to have festival licensing to compete with the P&L.
"Creating that kind of district for Westport, I think, would increase the sales tax money we pay the city by at least 15 percent," Nigro says. "It would be smart business for our city and it would allow Westport to compete against the city-owned Power & Light District."
To date, it’s been a long, uphill slog.
"We’ve been trying to get this to happen since the day the Power & Light District opened,"Nigro says. "And here’s what the city and state gave us instead. We get to compete with them 12 days a year – not 365 days. And listen to the hoops we have to jump through. We have to measure the center of Westport right in front of Kelly’s – we have to draw a circle and measure 350 feet in all directions. But first we have to get the X / Y coordinates from outer space, then measure 350 feet out and determine who all the property owners are.
"Then we have to get signed consents from half of the property owners and we have to do that for each of the 12 events. And until this year, we had to take a notary with us to get everyone’s signatures notarized. But this year we don’t have to take a notary with us – what a deal!"
Westport’s bottom line:
"It’s un-American that the city won’t let us compete on the same playing field," Nigro says. "It’s un-American. Why can’t Westport just get a festival license too? Because in the past, the city’s never tried to help us, and when we ask them about the festival license, they point the finger and say it’s the state’s fault."
Westport isn’t buying that excuse, Nigro says. After all, the city got it done for the P&L.
There’s another reason Westport’s been trapped on the 12 Days of Hell a Year Plan, Nigro says.
"Power & Light developer Cordish spent a lot of money on lobbyists to keep Westport from getting that same privilege," he says.
To that end, Nigro’s enlisted City Councilman Jim Glover – author of the Glove Plan – to help rescue Westport and generate more income for Kansas City.
"I just went to councilman Glover last week and told him we really want to get something done this year before the weather turns warm," Nigro says. "And if we’re not going to get it, I want to know why. And he said, he’d look into it and hopefully he’ll help us out. It just takes a couple people to introduce the ordinance to make it happen. And then they all vote on it. It’s the city that’s instrumental in making this happen.
"What the city needs to understand is, the sooner they get this done, the more tax money we’re going to hand them. I’m not mad at the Power & Light District, it was the right thing to do. But the city has to be fair and we were here first and were cordonning off our streets long before the P&L was.
"And we’re the local guys. The city is letting the out-of-towners do it and telling the local guys, sorry. And we’re the ones handing them money. I just want to hand them more money."